Holy Fiction, Hours From Dance

Holy Fiction, Hours From Dance

My advice for listening to Holy Fiction’s Hours From Dance? Don’t even think about it in relation to the band’s “real” full-length, 2010’s excellent Hours From It; just forget that album even exists, at least for a little while. Why? Well, because while the songs on Hours From It may’ve served as the jumping-off point for companion piece Hours From Dance, the latter has evolved into its own unique, starkly-contrasting animal. I’ve spent several hours listening to the two back-to-back, and honestly, it makes more sense if I disassociate the two completely.

What Hours From Dance is, really, isn’t a “remix” album (which seems to be all the rage lately, and barring a few exceptions, like The Manichean’s excellent Lacerus Rising, almost always seems to be a listen-once throwaway) of the band’s existing stuff so much as it is a wholly new reimagining of their music. This isn’t Holy Fiction the delicate, world music-tinged, Peter Gabriel-esque folk-rock band, but instead Holy Fiction the electronicized, detached, ’80s-colored synth-pop band.

And while I’ve never been a huge fan of synth-pop in general, the Holy Fiction crew tackle it with a seriousness and all-in mentality that I can’t help but admire, carefully crafting their own library of samples from whatever the heck they could find around the house and tweaking it ’til it sounded perfect for what they wanted to do, and then assembling those sounds into utterly transformed versions of the original songs, versions that often see nothing left but the overarching melody or vocals from the original. It’s an impressive amount of work, and better still, it actually works — while the “real” Holy Fiction is my favorite, I find myself liking this alternate-universe version of Holy Fiction, even still.

It’s surprising, really, how well the songs translate. The band takes “Iron Eyes” and reworks it into busily downbeat, Pet Shop Boys-like pop, with stuttering drums lending the whole thing a tense, nervous energy, while “Exit (In Pursuit of the Night Stalker version)” is bumping and sweetly funky, almost Chemical Brothers-ish at points. “More Than Ever (Encircled Lovers in a Snowstorm)” pushes the epic grandeur of the original quietly aside and shifts into synth-heavy electro-pop that’s beautiful and few, twinkling and gentle.

“Song Ten (Late Night in the Arboretum version)” sounds like it belongs on Massive Attack’s classic Protection, particularly alongside that album’s title track; it’s dusky and twilit, melancholy but still defiant. “Two Small Bodies (New Age Prom version)” covers similar territory, moving slowly and deliberately like a long-lost track from some forgotten ’80s dance-pop band like Glass Tiger. In contrast, “Golden City Lights (Trapped in a Japanese Game Show)” lives up to its sub-title, busy and manic but still innocently, guilelessly sweet.

The final two tracks on the album, “Hours From It (Working Out With the Professor)” and “Yes They Were Here (It Happened on the Way Downtown),” take the whole thing to its fullest extent, diving so deep into the realm of electronicized, sweetly-shining, almost Tears for Fears-like pop (esp. the latter track) that even knowing what the band normally sounds like, I catch myself feeling like I’ve actually gone back to high school and am listening to the radio from back then once again. It’s great, great stuff.

Stepping back to my earlier admonition to forget Hours From Dance progenitor release Hours From It, I’ll reverse myself a bit to note that there is a part of Dance that’ll come as an added benefit for fans of the band’s earlier stuff: for whatever reason, the more stark, “separated” sound of the electronics gives the lyrics a definite boost, pushing them to the forefront where you can better hear and understand what frontman Evan Lecker’s actually singing. I’ve listened to Hours From It dozens of times now, at least, but the first time through Dance, I was stunned to actually grasp what he was saying on several songs for the very first time.

Still, though, I think it’s best to look at this release on its own, with its own strengths and quirks. Step back from the band’s past work and look at this with fresh eyes, and it sure looks like one of the most entertaining synth-pop albums I’ve heard since, well, ever. Honest. Not bad for a between-releases side project, eh?

[Holy Fiction is playing 7/29/11 at Warehouse Live, along with Quiet Company, Castle Lights, & Sara Van Buskirk.]
(Nile Music; Holy Fiction -- http://www.facebook.com/holyfiction; Holy Fiction (Myspace) -- http://www.myspace.com/holyfiction)
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Review by . Review posted Friday, July 29th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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One Response to “Holy Fiction, Hours From Dance

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Holy Fiction (Reviewed!) + Sara Van Buskirk + Squishees + Rivers + Eric Dick + More on July 29th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    […] Top of the pile for me, at least, is the show over at Warehouse Live, with headliners Holy Fiction — they’re a phenomenal band, seriously, the kind that’ll make you want to smack yourself in the face for thinking you can write songs. Last year’s Hours From It was a stunning debut, and earlier this year they followed it up with a reworking of the whole damn thing as a majestic, playful synth-pop opus, Hours From Dance. Believe it or not, it works really, really well — check out the full review over here. […]

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